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Recovery of victims off Phuket after the Dive Asia disaster

Phuket's Sea Rescue to be Boosted by Boats

Wednesday, December 30, 2009
PHUKET has been allocated 17 million baht to spend on sea rescue equipment and staff. Talks this week looked at the kind of equipment the project needs.

With five Andaman provinces, the right kind of vessels will be important, and Vice Governor Smit Parawatwichai asked this week's meeting for answers by next week.

This evening at 6.30pm at Phuket City police headquarters, a parade drill will be held for all the services connected to maritime rescue.

While no officials were making the link, Phuketwan believes the 17 million baht has been made available because of the poor performance of rescue services after the Dive Asia disaster earlier this year, when a liveaboard capsized in a squall with the loss of seven lives, six of them tourists from Europe and Japan.

The 23 survivors, fortunately saved by the deployment of two liferaft, were left to drift off the west coast of Phuket for hours, and eventually they had to organise their own rescue. No aerial search was mounted.

This week's meeting was attended by representatives from the Royal Navy, Marine Police, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, the Transportation Departnment, and the Phuket Provincial Adminstrative Organisation, which also has a problem at present with beaches that have no lifeguards.

Three boats are to be purchased, each capable of carrying 10 to 15 people. Two boats will be based on Phuket, and another on Phi Phi, with more budget needed to base other vessels at Phang Nga and Ranong.

Vice Governor Smit asked the Navy and the marine Police to choose the best kind of vessel. The boats needed to be adaptable, twin-engined, equipped with good communication and have a minimum speed of 25 knots.

It is not clear at this stage whether the boats are also intended for surf rescues to prevent the increasing number of needless drownings at popular beaches on Phuket, especially in the monsoon season.

A British sailor died on a catamaran that capsized off Chalong in a storm earlier this month. Two other sailors on the boat had to be rescued by a passing tourist boat.

The first suggestion of a name for the rescue project is ''mobile lifeguards,'' which could cause confusion between sea rescue and surf rescue. A second meeting is to be held on Wednesday.
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